A Summer’s Vegetable Garden

First off, WOW where did the time go?!  I have a lot of posts from the summer in the works, but for this one I wanted to keep it straightforward and share with you some pictures from our vegetable garden this summer!  Since this was our first summer in our housey house, this is version 1.0 of the garden – the year of learning what does and doesn’t fair well in our yard, how big certain plants get, how much to plant, and how the vegetables fit into our diet.  Here is how we tackled the project, and some helpful resources I found:

Turning Ugly into Tolerable

Our backyard was bad.  It’s part of the reason we were actually able to afford our housey house.  It was an awkward combination of grasses, ground cover, bulb flowers, weed sheets, and an air mattress pool (we’ll get to THAT later…).  We opted to plant directly into the soil instead of making raised planter beds (we have, in general, decent soil here in Seattle that is conducive to growing), and we wanted to just get rid of the randomness in the yard and put what little square footage we have to a productive use.  So we rented this tiller from Home Depot, and dug up about 300 square feet of the yard.  Looking back on this project now that we have a functioning garden, I would say it was worth our time, but it was a LOT of work each weekend in the spring trying to get this yard ready (I was the most boring friend during those times: “Sorry, no, I can’t go to that super cool Ballard bar with you that has killer cocktails because I’m digging up my backyard so I can plant a vegetable garden that may or may not grow.  Do you want to help me weed the yard?…hello?  Hello?!”)

Below are some before and after pics:

 

After tilling the yard we started raking out the bits of grass and weeds left in the soil

After tilling the yard we started raking out the bits of grass and weeds left in the soil

 

You find odd things when you start digging up a yard with 100+ years of history. This is a pool that one of the previous owners sized to her air mattress so she could float in the backyard.

You find odd things when you start digging up a yard with 100+ years of history. This is a pool that one of the previous owners sized to her air mattress so she could float in the backyard.

 

Digging up the pool proved to be a bit more of a bicep workout than I had bargained for with layers of rotting wood beams stacked on each other

Digging up the pool proved to be a bit more of a bicep workout than I had bargained for with layers of rotting wood beams stacked on each other

 

Here's the garden at the height of the summer

Here’s the garden at the height of the summer and me testing out if we wanted a brick patio at the bottom of the picture (answer: eh, maybe someday, but I’m too lazy right now to start that project)

backyard garden2

 

Planning the Garden

I found the website smartgardener.com incredibly helpful.  This website helps you plan out a garden and gives you a weekly to-do list of when to plant, tend to, water, and harvest the various fruits & veggies you plant.  It also tells you a TON of information on each type of plant you have (e.g. light and water requirements, length to maturity, length of germination, plant height stats, and hardiness ratings).  You input measurements of your garden, what shape you would like it to be, and what plants you want to plant, and you can either automatically or manually generate your own garden plot.  The icons of the various plants are either large or small to give you an idea of how much space they will take up in your garden once they reach full size.  Here’s the plot of what our garden looks like (note: we ended up deviating from this quite a bit, partly because I can’t read a map…so just in case you are wondering why the picture above doesn’t match this…):

garden plan

Here is what we ended up planting (and in parenthesis my best excuses on why things didn’t work out exactly as planned):

  1. Lavender
  2. Leeks
  3. Three kinds of strawberry: pineapple crush, alpine, and quinault
  4. Red Bell Peppers
  5. Two kinds of cucumber: lemon, and a pickling variety
  6. Cauliflower (which has yet to flower…)
  7. Broccoli (if you let a few of the stems bloom, the honey bees LOVE these flowers)
  8. Two heirloom tomatoes: Black prince, and radiator charlie’s mortgage lifter
  9. Two carrots: atomic red, and lunar white
  10. Kentucky green pole beans (which grow SO tall!!)
  11. Green globe artichoke
  12. Lettuce, spinach, and a couple types of kale (siberian, and lacinato)
  13. Teddy bear sunflower (it’s a dwarf sunflower plant with multiple flowers – see picture below)
  14. Miscellaneous herbs: basil, oregano, thyme were the ones that survived (there were lots more of other varieties…whoops)
  15. Eggplant (which we made the mistake of planting next to the pole beans – the pole beans won and stole their sunlight, so I transplanted to various other parts of the garden and we have yet to see an eggplant let alone a flower…)
  16. Sugar snap peas (see #14, same scenario, pole beans won, and we had a grand total harvest of about 12 snap peas)
  17. Sweet potatoes (we’ll see if we get any – above ground the plants are growing…!)
  18. Asparagus (year 1 so we can’t harvest any – we had three shoots coming above ground)
  19. Garlic…didn’t work out so well…need to plant in fall instead
  20. A jalapeno-like pepper whose exact name I can’t remember but that is very tasty
  21. Walla Walla onions (they need way more sun I think…currently tomatoes are blocking their sun and I’m too lazy to do anything about it this late in the season…)
  22. A small potato fingerling from Trader Joe’s I left too long in the cabinet and decided to plant last week for the fun of it…

Here’s a few pictures of the plants and my garden markers in action!

lavender

 

leeks

 

pineapple strawberry

 

artichoke

 

sunflower

 

Saving Money on the Garden

Here’s some tips we used to help save a bit of money in this process:

1. Buy seeds online (we used eBay), or buy in bulk if you can

2. If your planting zone will allow it, try to grow as many fruits and veggies in your normal diet so you don’t have to buy them from the grocery store.  We have been able to cut our grocery bill on average about $100 per month since we started harvesting

3. Let some of your plants go to seed so you can save the seeds for next year’s plant

4. Make compostable garden starters with items already around your house

 

 

I hope you enjoy, and this inspires you to plant your own agricultural hub in your space 🙂

~*Kristen

 

Homemade Cat Repellent Recipes

Let me preface this post by saying I love all of our neighbors’ cats (basically all of our neighbors have cats…).  I grew up with two cats, and really have nothing against cats.  I am pro-cat.  However, I am not a lover of cats when they use my garden as a litter box.  There’s nothing worse than digging up a fresh one while weeding, or realizing that damp spot in the soil isn’t actually from your drip irrigation system.  Previously I have purchased cat repellent from Home Depot, but that can add up (especially since the rain in Seattle washes everything away so I’d fly through the bottles of the stuff).  Enter: cinnamon, lemon essential oil, oranges, pepper, rosemary, and boiling water.  Here are three recipes I tried, and a technique that didn’t work.  So far, so good – I will update this article if anything starts not working, for now…no cats in sight.  The frustrating thing is that every cat is different, so in general these are scent recipes that they don’t like.  Hope you find luck in this and it makes your cats skidaddle:

Some scents that cats don't enjoy - let's mix them together and see what happens!

Some scents that cats don’t enjoy – let’s mix them together and see what happens!

Recipe One | The Pepper Spray

{I should note with this recipe that when making it, don’t stick your face in the fumes – you might mace yourself accidentally – and we don’t want that}

1. Boil 1 cup of water
2. Add 2 tablespoons of ground pepper
3. Stir until dissolved
4. Filter (with a cheese cloth, or nylon) into a spray bottle.  I clogged my spray bottle because I didn’t filter it (ummm, whoops), so this step is important.
5. Spray desired areas where no feline friends are welcome!

 

Recipe Two | The Rosemary-Citrus Spray

1. Boil 1 cup of water, and while boiling add the following ingredients:
2. 1 tablespoon rosemary
3. Add peels of one orange (I cut up the orange into slices and put them in to also get some juices as well in the liquid)
4. 1 teaspoon lemon essential oil
5. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Filter into a spray bottle and spray away!

 

Recipe Three | The Cinnamon Dusting

{After making a homemade mace, and then following it up with some sort of concoction that seemed like something I’d marinate a chicken with, I decided I needed something easier.  Enter: cinnamon.  Good ol’ cinnamon.  I had bought a Costco-sized container of it a few years back that I still had yet to use up, so I was good to go.}

Essentially all you do is just sprinkle the cinnamon wherever you don’t want the cats to be.  And when I say sprinkle, I dumped it.  I’m sure sprinkling works just fine, but let’s be honest, I’m dealing with multiple cats here, and I really would like to successfully grow a tomato plant this year.  

And as a positive: it apparently doubles as an ant deterrent – excellent!

Lots of cinnamon!  PS Those forks will be explained if you keep reading...

Lots of cinnamon! PS Those forks will be explained if you keep reading…

 

And just as an FYI…

Something That Doesn’t Work | Forking Your Garden

Yes, I’m serious.  I saw this on Pinterest, people forking their garden beds with plastic forks to deter cats.  Made sense in my head – I usually don’t like to dig or poop close to spiky things either – so I decided to give it a go.  So I went out and forked our garden where the cats were…

…and it was a good conversation starter at a graduation party we threw “Oh I see you are growing forks, that’s great how long before harvest? Did you plant any spoons?”

…but unfortunately the cats proceeded to give me the proverbial middle finger, and go on using it as their litter box…moving the forks aside with their furry little paws…

 

This lone fork got pushed aside from his other fork friends to make way for a litter box

This lone fork got pushed aside from his other fork friends to make way for a litter box

 

Now since I’m feeling slightly guilty for writing an entire blog post with various ways to get rid of our feline friends, and to further demonstrate that I do love cats very much, here is a picture of me snuggling with one of my favorites.

me & cat

Hope everyone has a safe and fun 4th of July

*~Kristen